2013 AFC West Preview
Super Bowl dreams in Denver, new coach and quarterback in Kansas City, Raider Nation looks for a turnaround and the Chargers hope Phillip Rivers can have a renaissance with new head coach Mike McCoy. Here is a 2013 AFC West preview:
Player to watch: Alex Smith and Wes Welker. Too close to call to pick just one. Alex Smith, under new head coach Andy Reid in Kansas City, hopes to have a fresh start under a partial pistol offense. How that will work, who knows, but KC is willing to try. Reid must use the approach that Jim Harbaugh did in San Francisco, which is to allow Smith to manage the game, not go out and win it. Smith is the key to the Chiefs' playoff hopes. He lost the starting QB job in San Francisco last year after exiting with a concussion and the 49ers ended up in the Super Bowl. Welker, on the other hand, is instrumental in helping the Broncos get to the Super Bowl. Can he be the middle-of-the-field threat in Denver that he was in New England and stretch the offense for his teammates? Peyton Manning will do his best to make sure of it.
Division's missing link: Von Miller. Miller was suspended six games for violating the league's drug policy. He is arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL. The Broncos probably wish they had Elvis Dumervil, who took off for Baltimore in free agency. The two combined for nearly 30 sacks last year.
San Diego sunshine? Weather-wise yes. Football-wise, to be determined. These aren't your big brother's Chargers anymore. Phillip Rivers is walking the tight rope to keep his job and all of the playmakers are gone. New coach Mike McCoy, someone who knows quarterbacks, will have the challenge of getting things sunny on the football field again in San Diego and saving Rivers' career on the West Coast.
Just Win Baby! The Raiders selected Terrelle Pryor in the third round of the 2011 Supplemental Draft after his constant controversy at Ohio State which included being accused of collecting money for autographs and memorabilia, driving on a suspended license and driving up to eight cars purchased by others close to the program. Al Davis was the only one who had faith in Pryor. Pryor will likely be the Raiders' starter and looks to right the ship for a once-proud NFL giant. The good news for Raider fans is Pryor fits the mold of the current run around or throw hybrid quarterback with his athleticism and 6'4, 233-pound frame. The bad news? He has no experience as a starter, has no offensive weapons, his offensive line is a disaster and as a starting QB has yet to try and run away from NFL linebackers who have more speed than those Big 10 linebackers he was used to evading in Columbus.
Projected records: Broncos: 11-5. Chiefs: 8-8. Chargers: 6-10. Raiders: 4-12.
Who do you think will win the AFC West? Vote here: http://1045theteam.com/who-will-win-the-afc-west-in-2013-poll/
By: Mike Lindsley, "Mid-Day with Mike," M-F 1-4, Yankees pre/post game host on 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/MikeLSports.